Meet Dorothy Nyongo: She is an amazing woman and founder of The Africa Cancer Foundation; which is a non-profit organization that promotes cancer awareness and prevention by early detection, provides support to cancer patients and caregivers, and is involved in the development of guidelines and protocols for cancer diagnosis, treatment and healthcare provision. She started this organization after the early detection and successful treatment of her husband Anyang Nyongo.
ACF has a network of over 700 volunteers. On that day in Meru, there were several stations for registration, taking of vitals like blood pressure, body mass index, diabetes screening (in partnership with Kenya Diabetes Management centre). At several of these stations there were volunteers with mobile phones with an app by ACF
Initially, this process required each phone used to have a line and an individual service plan, which was expensive and inconvenient. That is where we stepped in. In four of the data collection points – the reception, breast cancer screening, cervical cancer screening and prostate cancer screening rooms. One BRCK’s connection could be shared between four or five people, thus minimizing the overall costs of data.
When you imagine internet connectivity in a people-driven context, you seldom remember that it can be used not just for social media or Education, but also to make it easier to store and retrieve useful health information, a use that becomes more profound when dealing with a disease like cancer where early detection and prevention is a huge factor in minimizing incidences.
With the increase in the uptake of smartphones and the increasing coverage of mobile networks, ACF has come up with a smartphone app for the collection and storage of the data collected during cancer screenings. Volunteers are equipped with a smartphone with the app installed and then use this to gather and send information to the cloud.
When I speak to global audiences I often make the point that technology is a means not an end in itself; and that technology as an enabler. To see this and experience it first hand with Africa Cancer Foundation (ACF) was a reminder of this in many ways. ACF has a great network of volunteers.I had the privilege of speaking with one of them. Gorety Mwai. She inspired me so with her dedication, attention to detail and hard work. She studies public health and is a wonderful volunteer who was registering people for their screening all day with efficiency, a smile and diligence. Here she is after a long day, answering a few questions about how the day went and how the tech we brought worked out.
With this experience, we learned first hand that connectivity and reliable technology has an important enabling role for tackling many challenges. The collaborations with partners from foundations, private sector, and government can be complemented highly by technology companies/organizations that seek to add constructive value to ongoing work. Extending that work into marginalized areas is the next big challenge.
With Cisco’s support, BRCK.org will be providing connectivity for the next cancer screening in the coastal area of Kenya later in the year and subsequently in other areas of Kenya, and will also be exploring other ways of extending reliable technology to the edges of society.
Indeed there has never been a better time to embrace technology at the frontiers of change.